JEDDAH: A new Saudi drama series is set to premiere, in the latest sign that the Kingdom’s booming film and TV industry is going from strength to strength.
“Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison, where he is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit.
The first crime-action thriller in the Kingdom stars Saudi celebrity Bader Saleh, who plays the role of Adham, a loyal childhood friend and accomplice of the protagonist Ahmed, played by young Saudi actor Azzam Al-Namry.
Taking justice into his own hands, Ahmed works with a talented team to prove his brother’s innocence and bring the truth to light.
“He has to obtain SR25 million to get his brother out of jail,” said scriptwriter Sara Al-Olayan. “He comes from a very humble kind of family; they don’t have much money and he has to find it before the execution date.
“We see how motives can kind of play with a person’s morals when it comes to someone they truly love. Morals, I would say, can shift when a person is trying to do whatever they can to get a person they care about out of jail.”
Al-Olayan joined other members of the cast and crew at film production company Millimeter on Jan. 18 for a special event to launch the series.
The 22-year-old writer said when she joined the production there was little more than a brief description of the plot, and she was given the chance to play a major part in expanding and shaping the story.
“I fell in love with the summary of the show right away, and felt that I had to be part of this,” she said. “I did my best to expand on it, to develop the story and include more characters, and to make sure that the story is culturally acceptable while also something people can relate to.”
Naif Al-Thofairy plays Ahmed’s falsely accused brother. Saleh, rapper Ahmed Sadam, and actors Sara Al-Yafei and Moayed Al-Thagafi make up the dream team of friends and accomplices, while Faisal Al-Dukhi plays the role of the antagonist.
Speaking at the launch event, Al-Namry said: “It’s very exciting to be part of a project that’s packed with suspense, conspiracy, and drama. Video on demand has opened up new opportunities for the abundant youth talent in the region.”
Al-Thofairy expressed confidence that the show will be a hit with young people in the Kingdom.
“They’ll see a good representation of their community, especially the youth, and that the series talks about high-schoolers not in a comedic way or in a way that insults their intelligence, so people in school will watch it,” said the 30-year-old Saudi actor.
“It’s the same kind of content that we expect to see in Western productions — viewers will get action and drama. The premise is a big one: You have to save your brother through high-risk means.”
Co-star Fay Fouad, 23, highlighted the advances made recently by Saudi women in local entertainment industries.
“Now we can show the world who Saudi women are and what they’re capable of,” she said. “As an actress, I can tell stories from our society and portray the characters accordingly. I can tell the stories of the girls around me, and when they see me on TV they see that we (women) can do it. Nothing is difficult for us.”
She said the entire cast of “Doon” is proud of the local production. “We’re all Saudis and we’re very happy with the story,” she added.
“It’s a unique plot, not stereotyped like other stories. It’s full of surprising events. Each cast member put their heart into it, and I’m looking forward to its release.”
Fellow cast member Daliah Hajjar said the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan helped make her childhood dream come true.
“It’s a wonderful feeling because I’ve wanted to become an actress since childhood,” said the 29-year-old Saudi. “Back in the day, such an idea wasn’t supported. My family wanted me to study medicine, so I did. I completed my studies abroad and came home to Vision 2030. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greatly support women. There has been a great leap forward for Saudi women during this time. I feel supported.”
“Doon” is produced by Viu Original (MENA) in cooperation with Qubba Production.